LII THE SELJUK TURKS 107 The Minister Nizam-ul-Mulk was a peerless pearl, which the All-merciful God esteemed as of great price, But, precious as it was, the age .knew not its value, so, in jealousy, He replaced it in its shell. The Death of Malik Shah, A.H. 485 (1092).—Malik Shah survived his faithful servant less than a month, dying at the height of his fame, after a short illness, before he was forty years of age. With him passed what may justly be termed the golden prime of the Seljuk dynasty ; for never within historical times had a vast empire been better governed than during the thirty years now concluded. The Assassins.—In the previous chapter some account has been given of the origin of the Ismailis and also of their immediate offshoots. The members of the sect, under the European name of Assassins, played a large part on the stage of the Near East and Iran during this period and the two succeeding centuries, and they became famous in Europe through the baleful activity of their Syrian branch. It is therefore desirable to give some account of their tenets and operations at this period. The political importance of the sect began with the foundation of the so-called Fatimid dynasty, which claimed descent from the Prophet's daughter, and the Ismailis are in consequence often referred to as Fatimi or Alawi (descend- ants of AH). By their opponents they are termed Ismaili, Batini (" Esoterics"), Mulahida ("heretics"), this last word being the Mulehet of Marco Polo. The dynasty in question was brought into existence through a propaganda started in A.H. 260 (873) by a certain Abdulla bin Maymun al-Kaddah, an oculist of Ahwaz and a Persian by birth. This extraordinary man founded a secret society which was to bind together Arabs and Persians, Christians and Jews, and indeed all mankind, into a school which was to owe implicit obedience to him- self and to serve as a powerful instrument of his ambitions. As in the case of the Abbasid propaganda, dai or mission- aries spread the peculiar doctrines, which offered all things to all men—a Mahdi to the Moslems, a Messiah to the Jews, philosophy to the wise, and liberty to the foolish.